Big Picture, Little Picture

The Big Picture these days is like a Gordian Knot. From the domination of the patriarchy and its greed for power and resources, to the negation of any kind of true social and legal justice, fixing the Big Picture is going to take public persistence, strategic action, and (ultimately) creative cooperation to either unravel or discard the current system.

As a White, progressive, middle class extended family, we support working toward re-building our society into a world view that values all life, that prioritizes ethics, equity, compassion, and diversity, and that supports the development of the best of human potential to solve problems in ways that meet the needs of all sentient beings. We make an effort to find common ground – even with antagonists – as a starting point, and often that starting point begins in learning about, understanding, and accepting the truth of each person’s personal journeys and experiences. But too often antagonists don’t want to find common ground, and so there is no place to start or proceed, especially since we are living in a world that seems to have lost all shades of gray.

Decades ago, my (now) adult son was mugged and beaten by three men of color who robbed him of the meager amount that was available via his ATM. Because he was nurtured to understand the influence of the local environment in which these men most likely lived, he was able to move beyond anger and “hate”. As an adult, autistic and afraid of violence, he still lives his life committed to social justice and intersectionality. The road he travels is bumpy, indeed. But he persists in the best way he is able: by intelligent research, analysis, and writing.

When my grandson was 7 or 8 (he is now 17), he became enamored of firemen and their uniforms. Every week, he visited our local fire station, getting to know the firemen personally. Finally, they gave him a discarded uniform, including sections of the hose. He was so excited, he even wore the stuff grocery shopping.

I suppose his love of “costumes” was reinforced by the fact that we are a family with some history in theatrical performance, and his progression into costumes of “authority” was fueled by his feeling secure and protected when he wore them – fire fighter, EMT, detective, police, Dr. Who, Jedi.

So, despite all of his commitment to fairness, ethics, justice, and the goals of Black Lives Matter, and despite his acknowledgment that our system of policing needs to be overhauled, he cannot ignore his empathy toward the plight of some law enforcers – the cop who gets shot and leaves a wife and baby behind; the cop who doesn’t come forward and report unnecessary police violence because he is afraid his partner won’t give him the backup he might need in violent situations; the cop who needs his job to support his extended family.

In addition, my grandson is involved with an online game along with a young POC policeman from the Midwest who has become his friend. That cop has an unmarked police car that is his to drive and even take home. But he does not want to park that car in his driveway because he is afraid to make it public that he is a cop; he is afraid of his family being victimized by opposition forces.

The backlash my grandson gets from his “social justice warrior” friends when he tries to explain his feelings about the police, in his words, “hurts his soul.” But he perseveres in trying to explain why he feels the way he does.

We talk about these things over the dinner table. I tend to come down on the radical side of issues. He is a reminder to me not to forget that each individual has a personal history that is often ignored by critics – a history that might have room for some deserved “walk a mile in his shoes” empathy.

Many of today’s police are trained to believe they must be invincible and to accept violence in order to survive. In some ways, they are victims, whose own fears and bigotries have been co-opted to support a narrow view of law and order. My grandson reminds me that there often are understandable reasons why many of today’s police do what they do; there are understandable reasons why some folks are driven to rob convenience stores, at lethal gunpoint, for basic necessities. To keep our humanity, our empathy, strong, we need to be able to see some gray within all of the overwhelming “either/or” culture.

While Rudyard Kipling was a man with controversial political views, I am one of those who is able to look at art apart from the personal reputation of the artist. So I share with you a personally edited version of Kipling’s “If”, dedicated to my grandson. Edited pieces are in bold.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it all on you
If you can trust yourself when all folks doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And not worry if you seem too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And move beyond the stress of loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all folks count with you, and some too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ of your soul beguiled,
Your love of life will have no limit,
And you’ll find your destined place, my child.

I invite any readers to open a discussion of what I wrote here (harkening to the style of the original “blogosphere.”) Or at least leave a comment.

Dear Diary: I’m Adrift in Chaos

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All around me. All around my insides as well as my outsides.

I am used to being able to have some control over my life of 80 yeas. I get it that Covid 19 is in the driver’s seat right now. One of my “talents” has always been that I am able to find some pieces of myself to hang onto even in the midst of various forms of chaos; but I can’t seem to find any of those pieces.

As grateful as I am for the support and protection of my family, that all comes at a cost. And the cost is my sense of self at a time when very little is making sense at all. My reality has succumbed to the total chaos that rages all around me.

I am bummed that I don’t seem to be able to handle any of it. Mindfulness? Meditation? Forget it. Chaos rules my mind. I just want to sleep until I can wake to a better reality. And so I sleep. A lot.

I used to be able to gird my loins and launch myself into some creative craft project that would, at least, surround me with a brain buffer. I used to be able to take that chaos and re-purpose it into pretty decent poetry.

Is it so terribly hard now because I am old? Because I have used up my finite resources? I feel totally depleted. I don’t know who I am or why I am.

My late-diagnosed adult autistic son writes about trying to understand who he is in the context of his undiagnosed, fragmented journey.

My late once-husband, who tended to be single-minded, once told me that he wonders what is at my “core”; he saw me like an onion. The layers get pealed back and there’s nothing at the core. And this is how I saw him.

.House cactus.
You stand firm and fundamental
in your solitary nesting place
apart from your leafing, budding sill-mates.
You remind me of someone I know

So, I am an onion. Each layer is a period of my life that I created and lived and survived. My layers are what I am. Does that mean I have nothing at the core? Nothing solid, impermeable? Does it matter?

Maybe it does, if I find myself adrift in a chaos that is being absorbed by whatever is left of who I am. Do I even have another layer in me, or is that all there is?

>

Dear Diary: Late, Again

Here I am, already having missed a day venting my madness. This being late seems to be a trait I developed in my very late years. I used to arrive at my destinations at least 10 minutes early. None of that matters much any more anyway — and not because of the Coronovirus Pandemic, which has caused a lock-down and which gives folks too much time on their hands.

Today I’m mad about “Time.” It really seem to go faster as you get older. It takes me longer to do everything, including figuring out new things on this blog platform. You might have to bear with me for a while as I continue to climb the learning curve.

When I moved in here with my family, my grandson was 5 years old. Now, at age 17, he has completed his high school education as a home schooler. Twelve years, in the blink of an eye.

Today, I’m mad at Time, which can take me at any time. And I can’t turn it back to fix what I screwed up.

I will try to be on time tomorrow.

It’s Just Another Christmas Eve

How different my holidays are from when I was a child, part of a large extended Polish family, for whom Vigilia (Christmas Eve) was a major event, with all of the traditional foods and traditions.

The only thing I have left is one ornament that says Merry Christmas in Polish.

After I got divorced, since my kids would spend Christmas Eve with me and Christmas Day with their Dad, we started our own food tradition. I let the kids choose. They wanted a meat fondue. And we continue that tradition today.  Having to wait for our chunks of protein to simmer until ready means that we have to sit around the table for a while (unlike our usual “eat dinner together and then go our separate ways”).

 We tend not to eat beef, so we usually have chicken; but this year we broke with tradition so that Lex, my grandson, could try beef. (Which, unfortunately, he likes.)

We did manage to make and decorate some cookies — from Baby Yoda (which Lex devoured rather quickly) to the wreath “painted” by my art-major son-in-law. (I have to say that I love that Lex wears the “Jughead” hat I made for him all of the time.)

My daughter has successfully installed replacements for the traditions I left behind. Over the past week or so, she has cooked dinners from the various ethnic traditions of our genetics — German, Swedish, Lithuanian.  We often have Polish and Italian food, so there was no need to repeat those.  And it’s a Christmas Eve tradition for us to watch Polar Express together after dinner while we have dessert.   I decided to forego yet another watch and retired to my computer to struggle with this post.  (I am still have problems using this new fangled WordPress platform; but I’m intent on figuring it out; I have been at it for three  hours  now.)

Somewhere in Yonkers, my younger cousins are feasting on their home made pierogi, carrying on the old traditions,using recipes that have been handed down for generations.  I have yet to find store-bought peirogi that come anywhere near those our mothers made.  I’m too lazy to do all of the work to make my own.

I don’t know if they sing Polish “kolendy” (Christmas Carols), but I know they get their families together and share old memories.  I’m not in touch with them these days because he is their president, and he’s not mine.

I have fond memories of those Polish Christmases as a child.  I probably don’t remember them the same way that my cousins do.

I’m a poet.  I am all Eye.

December 24, 1948

There is no mistaking this immigrant clan
for anything but a matriarchy,
bringing from its Polish homeland
the fundamentals of family, earthy foods,
a deference to the will of the grayest female.

The men earn hard money, revere their vodka,
as it was on the farms of the old country.
The rest is woman’s right and work.
So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve draws near
the men disappear into their smoky enclaves
to share sad fatherland memories,

while the women gather in her kitchen,
a determined lineage of daughters,
by birth and marriage, armed with
the culinary legacies of generations.

For days, they roll, flour, fill, and pinch,
while we children sit on the floor, eye level to legs,
playing with scraps of pasty dough,
lulled by the soft humming of female voices,
the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.

The night flows with prayers and feasting,
as families gather at the gray lady’s call,
reviving ancient rites of pine and light,
singing the language and history of their people
carried across oceans of fear and hope.

They sing of homeland yearnings for freedom and faith,
of the tears of mountaineers displaced and despaired,
of the battles of heroes to free the heart’s land,
of mystical mothers and magical births.

Generations of voices in harmony
drift through the lace-curtained windows
open to the cold winter night, that night
when animals talk, wishes are granted,
and ancient rituals forge the primal bonds of blood.

Starting Over. Again.

Once I was a prolific blogger. Once I was part of a larger blogging community. But that was almost 20 years ago.

The onslaught of social media drove personal blogging out into the internet hinterlands. But, as folks get fed up with the advertising and limited opportunity for actual communication on platforms like Twitter and FB, there is a growing interest in resuscitating old blogs and setting up new ones.

I originally got into blogging through the example set my my son, who is inspiring me, again. I haven’t written anything in over a year (including poetry), so I’m hoping this current effort will get me inspired.

Meanwhile, I continue to slog through the the depressing overtone of our times, hoping for impeachment, hoping my adult son, diagnosed with autism three years ago, will be able to find the help and support he needs from “the system.” Writing helps both of us deal with the struggles of our lives.

Well, here goes “starting again.”

Beginning a New Adventure: My Jungian Journey

I have been through the process before, and blogged about it decades ago (somewhere on my old blog, which is only partially still available on blogspot). Severe sleep issues, depression (only partially helped with meds), and writer’s block have led me to try it again, this time with a different analyst, because my previous one is focusing these days on veterans and PTSD. Jungian analysis connects well with Shamanistic “soul retrieval”, in which I’ve also engaged before and which also has been successful.

One of the concepts Jung espoused is “synchronicity”, which, simply, is meaningful coincidence. And there already have been several as I work with this therapist: we both use a pen with purple ink; we both have hair issues; we both sport wearables that identify us — me my t-shirts and she exotic necklaces. Jungians also deal with dream interpretation, and I had one last night that is rife with meaning.

In real life, I am always worried about getting locked out of the house if no one else is home, so I found a very esoteric place to hide a key, which I wrap in plastic before I hide
it. Last night I dreamed that someone I was with wanted to come into the locked house, so I went an got the hidden key, let us in, and then started to re-wrap the key. Except I was having a hard time manipulating the plastic. I woke up before the story ended.

I have only had three sessions, but already stuff is shaking out.

One of the fascinating techniques that Jungians use is “sandplay.” My therapist has walls of shelves with various figurines, from realistic to imaginary, to use in setting up a sandplay scene. The figure at the beginning of this post was the one I picked to begin my scene. (I didn’t know why until I got home and started analyzing why I might have.) The actual figurine did not have that Celtic Raven on her shoulder, but she did have some sort of a black bird. I replaced it with a Celtic Raven because I have become fascinated with its mythology — and this representation of it. (I even made a shirt with a Celtic Raven on it.)

I have named her “Baba Bogina,” Polish for “Crone Goddess.”

So much is happening, and I have just begun. One of things I will be doing in the next few weeks is making an appointment with a nurse who is also a shaman, to do a “soul retrieval.” Those of you who read my blog eight or so years ago, know about the traumatic five years I spent living with my demented mother and my emotionally volatile brother — resulting in what my Primary Care doctor was convinced is PTSD. There is stuff still stuck in my subconscious that I can feel is keeping me from moving on. I’m still feeling angry. I’m still feeling guilty.

I was in a similar place after my divorce, and, thanks to my former Jungian therapist, I was able to move on. Follow me if you want to get a idea of how Jungian therapy can work from a very personal perspective, as I learn to access the wisdom of Baba Bogina, who is an archetype and who is a part of me.

Death With Dignity

The case for “Death with Dignity”

I have a unique relationship with death. My father was an undertaker, and we lived in an apartment above his business. Contemplating death and dying — my own and others’ — has been a part of my life since childhood. I have sat vigil during the hours and days of the deaths of both of my parents. At the age of 77, I am closing in on my final years. I have no control over when or why I will die; but I am learning about the choices I have about “how”. What I have come to believe is that it doesn’t matter what one believes about an “after-life”; what is important is to live fully while embracing the fact that we, after all, are all “terminal.” Those individuals whose religious beliefs preclude them from participating in such a process can follow the dictates of their religions, but those of us who have different beliefs should be allowed to make our own choices.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is once again considering a Death with Dignity bill. Modeled on the Oregon law, H 1991, Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act, would give terminally ill people more freedom, control, and peace of mind at the end of their lives. It is called “The End of Life Options Act”. I noticed that both the Northampton City Council and the Amherst Town Meeting passed resolutions in early November that called on the legislature to enact “The End of Life Options Act” (H1194 and S1225). I urge other municipalities to become familiar with the intent of this bill and take action to lend their support.

Seven out of 10 Americans who support the end-of-life option allowing qualified terminally ill people to end their lives through physician-prescribed medications support having a process to enable terminal patients to choose how they want to die. Such laws have enacted and practiced successfully in other states. I believe this bill has strong safeguards to ensure that no one – including people with disabilities, the frail elderly, and the low-income –could be coerced or pressured to end their lives rather than live longer or seek continued treatment for their terminal illness.

This is NOT assisted suicide, but rather an option to give people the right to choose to end their suffering (and that of their family) when faced with a prolonged and painful dying process.

I support this bill because I have sat by the beds of both parents as they suffered through their last days and hours of pain before death took them. When my father was in the last stages of pancreatic cancer in 1984, thankfully, we were able to use the services of Visiting Nurses (this was before Hospice was available) to give him drops of morphine while he lay in his bed, gasping for air and enduring a level of pain I can’t even imagine. It took him three days to finally die.

My mother, who died at the age of 94 in the “Comfort Care” unit of a hospital, hung on for a week with renal failure, until I finally insisted that the doctor increase her morphine dosage. A “Death with Dignity” Act would have spared both my parents painful deaths that, at that point, were inevitable anyway.

Please join me in contacting the co-chairs of the Joint Public Health Committee:  Sen. Jason Lewis (jason.lewis@masenate.gov, 617-722-1206) and Rep. Kate Hogan (kate.hogan@mahouse.gov, 617-722-2130). Urge them to pass H1194 before the deadline in early February.

For more of my musings about a better way to die, see my blog post: http://www.kalilily.net/2011/10/22/dealing-with-that-disturbing-d-word-being-a-midwife-to-the-dying/

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day

Desert Storm: A Family Scrapbook

Someone’s son huddles
gravely under desert rain.
restless as his heartbeat,
he waits for signs in the sky
to turn the taste of metal
in his mouth to blood.

Someone’s daughter,
leather jacketed, baseball capped,
takes her place in U.N. Square,
lights a candle against the wind, and
joins her voice to the hymn
that pulses like blood
through the streets, through the night,
through the weary dreams of men
reduced to war.

Someone’s daughter runs
from classroom through snow,
stuffs her duffel to bursting
with camouflage and conviction,
prays for the chance
to set the skies ablaze with truth.
At the table of her father’s house,
she waits for orders
and watches the colors of dawn
melt like blood into sand.

Someone’s son
boards a bus at midnight,
sheathed in a confusion of
army surplus and disbelief.
He joins the dawn in Lafayette Park,
seeking solace – if not answers –
in the steady drum,
the solid hands,
the strong songs
of sons and daughters
refusing to bleed
for the dreams of weary men
reduced to war.

(Elaine Frankonis 2013)

GUNS AND PENISES

Google it. Lots of stuff out there about that.

As I was strolling around my peaceful and gun-free, politically Republican neighborhood just now, I had this epiphany. Well, really, Freud had it before me, but sometimes a cigar IS more than just a cigar.

Posts on FB made me contemplate how I feel about guns – and penises. Because I don’t dislike either, and believe that each has a legitimate place in life. While I don’t want or own a gun, that has not been the case in my past life as far as penises go. But I really wouldn’t want to walk around the street seeing either of them hanging out of insecure men’s pants.

Guns and penises. Think about it (and I’m sure many psychologists continue to do so). Just the word “cock” brings up images of both artifacts. And you can use either to “shoot your wad.” Each can be used for violence, and it is usually men who use both for both.

They are both useful, in their place. And both can be dangerous in the wrong hands. (ahem)

I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as my research shows, all of the mass shootings and bombings in America have been perpetrated by men. (I think they were all white men, but that’s not the point here).

Penises and guns. I’d bet my bippy that men who are out-of-control gun fanatics also have some sort of issue about their penises. If you can’t shoot one as well or as often as you want to, how about shooting off the other. If you can’t display your penis in public because it’s illegal, then display your gun, right?

Oh, yes. Guns are fun to shoot. So is sex. But there is a time and a place.

I think it’s interesting that gun fanatics say “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.” I bet that they feel the same way about their penises.

Yes, there are plenty of women who like to shoot guns too. There is sense of power (I am told) in shooting off an automatic weapon. I understand needing to feel some kind of power in a culture that has made so many of us, men and women, feel impotent. Power and impotence. Guns and penises.

I have a 15 year old grandson, who plays Grand Theft Auto. I also have a daughter and son-in-law who continually have conversations with him about the the issue of guns and violence, and long ago taught him the difference between fantasy and reality. Actually, the three of them sometimes game together. But it’s their thing, not mine; I play Candy Crush Saga.

Guns and penises. I think there needs to be a whole lot more research into how their essences overlap.

Now, you might bring up the issue of breast feeding in public as some sort of parallel to guns and penises. I have my own middle-of-the-road feelings about that, too.

But for now, it’s Candy Crush Saga.

Grace and Frankie Use the “M” Word.

For those without Netflix, Grace and Frankie is into its third season as a comedy about couples in their seventies. (Warning: this post includes “spoilers,” but I don’t think they will take away from any of your enjoyment of the series.)

Frankie (Lily Tomlin) and Grace (Jane Fonda) are two very different women in their 70s living together at a beach house which they used to share when they were married to their husbands (who have come out as gay).

I will get to the “M” word eventually, but first I want to comment on the beautifully developed elder characters that the two actresses portray. They are feisty, quirky, impatient, forgetful, caring, independent, irreverent, maternal, and forgiving. They are the Golden Girls for this oldest generation of the 21st Century.

While very few women in their 70s are as wrinkle- and cellulite- free as Fonda (who looks and dresses like a model in a Neiman Marcus ad), she is believable as a traditional retired businesswoman. Tomlin, with graying hair, a few wrinkles, and outfits that must come from the Gudrun catalog, is an ex-hippie artist – about as opposite from her housemate as possible.

Sally Field & Penelope Wilton

There is a part of me that would rather have had someone play Grace who is less physically “reconfigured” than Fonda – like maybe Sally Field or Penelope Wilton, who, although not yet in their 70s allow themselves to realistically portray elder women wrinkles and all.

However, Fonda has won me over, despite her almost flawless skin and size 2 body. She and Tomlin play off each other with excellent timing and consistent characterization.

Frankie smokes weed and gets Grace to admit she MASTURBATES. Yes, that’s the “M” word that brings the women together to invent and produce a vibrator for elder women, whose arthritis often impedes their pleasure.

Grace and Frankie hilariously find ways to deal with just about all of the emotional and physical challenges faced by women over 70. There are three seasons available on Netflix, and it’s the only contemporary series I have found that is appealingly honest and charmingly irreverent about life in its last quarter.

Sheen and Waterston

While I am focusing on the female characters, they are given a run for their money by their gay ex-husbands (a sweet, believable, and delightful pairing of Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen).

We need to insist that Grace and Frankie start a trend of movies and series about elder women.

Kate Burton in “Grimm”

After watching the last episode of Grimm, in which the eldest female of the Grimm family (played by Kate Burton) pulls a sword from her cane and lops off a piece of the monster, I am rooting for a character like that in a new fantasy series.

The Crone’s time has come.